페이지 이미지

speak in this manner, with tenderness to his clergy, on the great truths of God. Though he apparently comes down to the level of those whom he addresseth; yet the persuasiveness of the man doth not lessen, but rather give dignity to the prelate.

I must not indulge the imagination with the supposed idea of being present at the ordination held by the bishops of the sixteenth century. But, if a writer living in the opening of the nineteenth century might be allowed to form an opinion of what passed at such a service, in the conduct of the ordainer towards the ordained; it were easy to conclude, that his sermon could not be deficient in the great points which must be everlastingly suited to the church of England's service, as long as it shall remain the established church of this country; and very eminently so at the time here referred to, when the nation had just emerged from popery. Under this impression, it may be reasonably inferred, that the chief points of discourse delivered by the bishop in his ordination sermon, were on those most intimately connected with the service.

If I were called upon (the bishop might be supposed to say) to point out what form the grand discriminating features in the ordination to the ministry, I should not hesitate to class them under a few special heads. The clear and evident marks of regeneration, on the minds of the persons seeking ordination; the clear and evident call of God to the ministry; an earnest concern in them for the salvation of souls; the wishes of godly persons acquainted with their principles, for their being placed over them; and the prayers of the faithful going before and following them for a blessing on the ministry. Where these qualifications are found, there can be no hesitation to admit such candidates into holy orders. There seems to be every thing to intimate the predilec

tion of God.

And that these are essential qualifications, and of

indispensable necessity, is evident from another consideration. It hath been said by some, (but without foundation) that the church of England hath derived her authority in the appointment of her ministers, by immediate succession from the apostles. But not to observe that this, even if it had existed, which it never did, is totally done away by the irruption of popery; certain it is that no church upon earth, as an establishment, can lay claim to such a privilege. It is the Lord alone which calls to his service. Even in the college of apostles, when a vacancy was made by the death of Judas, the surviving eleven ventured not to fill the place in with another, until that they had brought the matter before the Lord. We hear them saying, "thou, Lord, which knoweth the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen." Nay, it is probable that they never would have added another, had not God himself directed to the choice, by that remarkable prophecy concerning the traitor Judas; where it is said, "let his days be few, and let another take his office." Ps. cix. 8. Acts i. 20-24. Hence, there are no successions by descent. The sacred office in the church, like grace in the heart, is not hereditary. It will be well, therefore, that every individual servant in the house of God, and in all the departments of it, should be able to give to every man that asketh him a reason of the right of ministry that is in him, as well as a reason of the hope that is in him with meekness and fear. For otherwise, his case may not be unsimilar, though the safety of his person may not be in such danger, as the man we read of in the Acts of the Apostles; who, when attempting to exercise the ministry over the evil spirits, had this mortifying repulse, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?" Acts xix. 13-16.

It will be always a consolation of the highest nature to every truly ordained minister, that carrieth about

with him the credentials of his high calling, in the work of God upon his own heart, and the blessing of God upon his labours, while serving in the work of God towards others; that these are the best and most infallible marks of ordination in his own soul. And where these are, they must prove, and will be acknowledged by godly men of all degrees and orders, as the sure standards of character in the ministry; yea, even by those among our dissenting brethren who are pleased to think episcopal ordination a nullity.

And while the bishop might be supposed insisting, to some degree of length, on the several branches of duty belonging to the ministerial character; it may be reasonably concluded also that he availed himself of the opportunity of addressing the congregation present to interest their affection, and to desire their prayers for the Lord's blessing on their ministry. But these are points so obvious, that in a work of this kind they need not to be enlarged upon. I shall therefore dismiss the subject of this chapter, with only observing in the words of the apostle, how blessed were those times when such godly men ministered, and "held fast the faithful word as they had been taught, being able by sound doctrine both to exhort, and to convince the gainsayers."



It must have been a very high gratification to the truly godly of the sixteenth century, both of clergy and people, to have followed the bishop of those times in the circuits of his visitations. In such a suite, and upon such occasions as became the great object of their journey, the imagination can hardly conceive any thing more truly pleasing.

[blocks in formation]

In the memoirs of one of the archbishops of those days, we have the following account by his biographer: "He went round his diocese,' saith this writer, 'every year, preaching and catechising from parish to parish. He laboured in this service, without intermission, except when residing on his own cure of souls. He gave away in those journies all his income beyond the small expence of his own person (which he ever used most sparingly) to the poor. He studied to raise in his clergy a greater sense of spiritual matters, and of the charge of souls; and was in all respects a burning and a shining light, and highly beloved and esteemed by his whole diocese. He visited all the churches of his charge annually; preached himself in most of the churches, and heard the ministers preach. He did this with a view that he might not only know their zeal, and the doctrines which they preached, but that they might know his. And not only this, but that he might give countenance to them among their parishioners. And at home, if at any time there occurred a vacancy by reason of sickness or any other cause, he made a point to supply the pulpit himself: which not only prevented the neglect of the duty, but also conveyed to the congregation what sweet harmony subsisted between the bishop and his clergy in promoting the glory of God.'

What a beautiful feature of character is here! Surely it must have endeared him to every beholder! Let the reader figure to himself the man of God thus going through his diocese, not simply to a city or great town, but in every district and parish; and, like a shepherd, searching and seeking the sheep out of all places whither they were scattered in the cloudy and dark day. The persons of his clergy could not but be well known to him by an annual visitation. And if, as hath been said by some, those seasons were chiefly directed to enquire after the spiritual state both of ministers and

people, their growth in the divine life, and the yearly addition of the faithful, we have reason to conclude that in numberless instances the persons of the people were equally known to him also.

The public services of the churches, in the visitation sermons, charges, and exhortations, must have been very blessedly suited to those times of primitive godliness. And the very conversation at the table, amidst the plain and homely food then furnished, no doubt, made every thing gracious and edifying.

One of the writers of those days, in his account of the bishop which fell more immediately under his notice, speaks much to this purpose. He saith, that

in heavenly discourse and conversation upon all occasions, he manifested his love to souls, and his labours for their godly improvement. If you travelled with him on the road, he could easily spiritualize all objects, and turn the journey heavenwards. If, in a visit, he was more importunate to minister to the welfare of the souls of his company than to their bodies. If at the table, he would be clearing difficulties of scripture, especially among his clergy, or when other learned men did associate or visit him. And so very interesting was his whole conversation, in improving every subject to the edification of his hearers, that the best taught, or the humblest capacities, could not but much improve by his table talk. He was so excellent in this way, that Dr. Bernard, a contemporary of those times, said of him, that it often put him in mind of the words of the queen of the south to Solomon. "Happy are these thy servants that stand about thee, and continually hear thy wisdom.”

We have to lament that amidst the general records of those times, there is not (as far as my reading hath extended) a single document of the plan observed in the bishops' visitation. Nevertheless, from the general memoirs of their lives, it is easy to infer to what sacred

« 이전계속 »